Philip Vera, 12

You can't tell me what to do. You're not the boss of me. You're not the guy who married my mom after she got divorced. You think you can just show up and start ordering me around like you're the father figure I first met when I was 8? Well, you're not, and I don't have to listen to a stupid word you say, because you're not my real stepdad!

You're nothing like Dennis. He was the only father after my original father I've ever known, and you can't just take his place like he never existed. Because he does exist! He lives in that new apartment building on Kilgore Road, I think. I haven't seen it, but he sent me a birthday card last year and I wrote down the return address in case he invites me over sometime. And when I do go see him, he's going to teach me how to shave and how to tie a tie and drive a car and explain all the weird things that are happening to my body.


He's more of a stand-in father than you'll ever be.

I don't even know what you're yelling at me for—I didn't do anything! My real stepdad used to let me take the dirt bike out by myself all the time. He gave it to me when he told me he was marrying my mom and explained that I should try to call him "Dad." Dennis was awesome. He even promised to take me hunting once, and he would have, if he didn't have to spend all his time and money on a good lawyer. He treated me like his own son through marriage. And unlike you, my real surrogate father raised me from the time my mother sat us down and told us that Dennis would be spending the night at our house from now on.

So stop acting like you're the second guy to marry my mother, because you're not!


No one wants you here anyway, so why don't you make everyone happy and leave? We were all just fine before you came around. We had each other, a new puppy we got for switching schools again, and three different options for where to spend the major holidays. Plus, Mom said I was doing a much better job being man of the house than the last time. But here you are, pretending you care just as much as my other dads about getting legal custody.

I'm never going to come to terms with any more than two men in my mother's life. Never! I hope you die and Dennis and my mom get back together or she dates some as yet unknown fourth guy. I'd rather have a complete stranger at my parent-teacher conferences than a jerk who's going to pull up a chair and ask stupid questions all the time about when my behavioral problems started. If you wanted to be in my life, you should have been here from the beginning, or at least shown up towards the end of the breakdown of the beginning.

My little brother might think you're cool, but that's only because he's too young to remember that he already has a biological father–replacement. He probably looks up to you because you go to his T-ball games and took us to McDonald's once when my mom had to work late. But when he gets older, I'm going to show him pictures of our real stepdad and tell him how he took us to McDonald's once, too, and then he'll know that you're just a phony who's trying to make us forget my mom was already married, then divorced, then single for a while, then real sad, then remarried.


Well, screw you, Greg! I won't let you replace the man who replaced my father. And I don't care how long you stay married to my Mom—I'll never call you Dennis!

I'm not going to sit by and watch you try to fill in for my true stepdad, who was there for me during those tough times in court until it was mandated by a judge that he not be there anymore. If anyone's going to have a long talk with my mother and agree that changing me and my brother's last names this late in our lives would only confuse us, it's going to be Dennis.

Face it—you'll never be half the man my real stepdad is, or a quarter of the man the guy before him was.